Q&A: Will England’s National Food Strategy help tackle climate change?

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, supplying a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to consider, consisting of monetary rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

The federal government has actually committed to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in response within the next 6 months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been “noncommittal” to a number of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the mentioned goal of offering a “thorough plan for changing the food system”..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief discusses and examines the report how its suggestions align– or do not line up– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation objectives.

The NFS is the conclusion of more than two years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

What is the National Food Strategy?

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what type of system do we have, what type of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and could governments do things in a different way.”.

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching concepts that would indicate a huge change for the much better in our food system and make all of us much healthier. I hope that these plans will be taken up by this federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every nation on the planet would gain from doing something of this kind”.

Its objective was to provide a roadmap for transforming the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

However, the NFS has actually certainly brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He explains:.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so tightly linked regarding remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the method.

Some have actually criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others say that the procedures laid out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

The response to last weeks release saw members of parliament, celeb chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system can feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent review of the federal governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

Why is the food method crucial for tackling environment modification?

Virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually pledged to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has likewise set a lawfully binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Other significant factors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, food and transportation manufacturing and packaging..

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a third of overall worldwide warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has actually seen significantly smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions because 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by almost one-third given that 2008, however food-related emissions have actually decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

” Without resolving the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment modification commitments [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate modification.”.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which aims for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to fulfill the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit services and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

Many of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its certainly an action in the best direction, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in dealing with environment change?

The food system “is very complex”, Gill states, “however I dont believe thats any reason for not really highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

The recommendations “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to address all sort of issues. And if you wish to resolve appropriately the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Limousin beef livestock in a barn feeding on hay, Selside UK. Credit: John Bentley/ Alamy Stock Photo.

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintentional effects of its recommendations. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– suggests the report itself “reveals a little bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann states.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always need to include processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The report also “really shied” far from taking a strong position on reducing meat intake, Springmann says, with effect on both the environment and public health. He says:.

How does the food method address the competing interests of agricultural land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

Lowering meat usage would likewise assist relieve the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

Establishing the method will involve gathering data on farming efficiency, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature repair..

” The type of land that could deliver the biggest environmental advantages is often not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in numerous nations and companies net-zero targets, but many of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to fulfill the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would enable services and the government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy suggestions laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the necessary food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The government has committed to producing a reaction to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that simply over 20% of farming land must be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to achieve net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

” Globally, the biggest potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

Sharelines from this story.

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (best).

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions really requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually exceeds that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is committed to agriculture, primarily animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage happens overseas. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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